Wildlife flowers to grow from seed

November 14th, 2014 | Plant Talk with Graham Rice | 0 Comments

Insects love the globe thistle, Echinops ritroAt last we’re all catching on to the importance of considering wildlife, of all kinds, when we choose our plants. With insects and birds under pressure in their natural habitats, our gardens are increasingly important as reservoirs of food and habitat amongst the wildlife deserts around us.

This season Mr. Fothergill’s and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) have got together to launch a range of seeds specially chosen to help our birds, butterflies and bees. They’ve created three seed collections and three shaker boxes of seed blends for different purposes.

But I always like to choose individual varieties for specific purposes and specific places in the garden so it was those that I found especially interesting, in particular because some of them appeal to a wide range of wildlife.

One all-rounder that’s especially good for birds, butterflies and bees – and which has also received the RHS Award of Garden Merit – is the globe thistle, Echinops ritro. It provides pollen and nectar for insects, followed by oil-rich seeds which much enjoyed by birds, finches in particular. It’s also a fine border perennial and good for cutting – although it pays to beware of the prickly leaves.

Birds love the seeds of 'Hylander' millet‘Hylander’ millet was originally developed as a cut flower but if you can stop yourself cutting its 7.5-15cm/3-6in arching green heads, much loved by bees and butterflies, for the house they will mature to coppery bronze and provide seed for hungry birds. Or you could buy two packets, one to grow plants for wildlife and anther to grow plants for cutting!

Another plant that has wide wildlife appeal is valerian. Especially valuable to butterflies and bees, it’s also one of the plants best suited to 'Coccineus' red valerian is a richer colour than the usual pink form.growing in the cracks and crevices of a sunny dry stone wall. As well as a food plant for many adult butterflies, humming-bird hawk-moths both feed and lay eggs on valerian and the stylish rich red form is just as appealing to them as the everyday pink variety.

There’s also a plant in the range that’s undoubtedly valuable, its small white flowers provide pollen and nectar over a long season, but yarrow (Achillea millefolium) can also be a irritating lawn weed. If it self seeds into borders it can be difficult to remove although in a wildflower meadow, it should not be a problem.

There are many more wildlife friendly plants in the Mr. Fothergill range. So checkout the RSPB range, look for the RHS Perfect For Pollinators logo in the catalogue, or choose “Attractive to Birds and Butterflies” from the Flower Seeds dropdown menu.


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Is one of our best known gardening writers. A graduate of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Graham was previously Gardening Correspondent of The Observer.
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